Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula wants to amend the law to allow crippled prisoners and those with full- blown Aids to be released on medical parole.
"This would remove the expectation that terminally ill prisoners should actually die," Mapisa-Nqakula said yesterday.
The Correctional Services Act of 1998 says only terminally ill prisoners should be released on medical parole - specifically so they can "die a dignified death".
South Africa's most famous medical parolee, Schabir Shaik, was released last year, though he is not terminally ill. As former financial adviser to President Jacob Zuma, Shaik was accused of getting favoured treatment.
Asked why she had paroled Shaik, who is not terminally ill, Mapisa-Nqakula said: "The fact that he hasn't died yet is a matter beyond our control.
"Shaik continues to live because there was no date set for him to die."